Box squatting is a technique made popular by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell, but it’s not only beneficial for powerlifters to do them. They have a great carryover to Olympic lifts and to CrossFit. And, when done correctly, the box squat is one of the safest and most efficient ways for athletes of all skill levels to squat for many reasons.
- Teaches Proper Mechanics: Box squats are an excellent way to teach new people how to squat properly…or how to break bad mechanics for those who have been squatting incorrectly for a while. It teaches lifters the proper mechanics of how to reach back with their hips first, and not with their knees driving forward first. It also gives a physical target for athletes to sit back to and receive instant feedback on the depth they should be hitting. Depending on their current ability, the box height can be varied from above parallel for beginners or those with mobility limitations, all the way down to a short box that will put the lifter in a below parallel position that we shoot for in CrossFit.
- Strengthens Posterior Chain: Since the hips go back so far in a box squat and the shins stay vertical, the hips, hamstrings and glutes are the primary movers. Many people are very quad-dominant in their normal squatting patterns, but this movement pattern will strengthen and bring up any lagging muscles in the posterior chain by changing their body positioning. By strengthening these large muscle groups, most people will also see improvements in their pulling movements, like deadlifts, cleans and snatches. Many people will also notice that their lower back health improves.
- Increases Explosive Strength: The box squat teaches lifters how to explode quickly out of the bottom of a squat. In a normal squat, an athlete can use the stretch shortening cycle (or the “bounce”) out of the bottom. With box squats, the eccentric (or lowering) portion is separated from the concentric (driving up) portion, which really helps to build reversal strength when starting from essentially a dead stop. For example, box squats can help an athlete get out of the hole when catching a squat clean in the rock-bottom position.
- Working Around Knee Issues: Box squats can also be a great tool to use when athletes are experiencing knee pain or a knee injury. As mentioned earlier, a lot of people are very quad dominant and drive their knees forward in their squats. By sitting the hips and knees back, the majority of the loading is placed on the powerful muscles of the hips, hamstrings and glutes, which will take the pressure off the knees while squatting.
So, don’t be afraid of box squatting or think that you have to be a powerlifter to do them. They are very beneficial when done correctly and will carry over to your normal squat as well as to other compound movements. Give them a try during your next squatting session!